Through her unique book, Dancing From the Shadows, D'Ann Renner opened my eyes to the world of autism and what raising a special needs child entails - the struggles and problems; the emotional rollercoaster parents and family members encounter; dealing with multiple doctors' appointments, medications and therapy modalities; working with school personnel; and navigating through the various reactions and prejudices from siblings, classmates, friends and neighbors. As I read her story, I felt the St. John family's initial exhilaration and excitement when they adopted Lydia and Gabe from Bulgaria, then experienced their ensuing exhaustion, frustration, fears and worries, hopes for their adopted children, and dashed dreams after discovering Gabe is autistic. This is a significant blow because they didn't want to raise a special needs child with complex medical issues, and Lydia resents the extra attention Gabe receives due to his behavioral outbursts and health issues.
In her book, D'Ann tackles the tough topic of raising an autistic child, explaining the symptoms of the disorder in so much detail I felt as if I were right there with the St. Johns witnessing firsthand the struggles and triumphs they went through. The characters are well developed in a way that shows they are far from perfect. Their true, raw emotions - both positive and negative - make them seem real, down to earth and relatable. It was like I had a front row seat where I could personally view the harsh reality of what was happening in their home as they faced their day-to-day challenges.
Not only are the St. Johns struggling with a change in their economic status since Tori left the work force to stay at home and raise their children full-time, but their medical bills are mounting, life is overwhelming, and their marriage becomes rocky as she spends more time focused on the children and less time focused on her husband. Determined to find a "cure" for Gabe's autism, Tori is no pushover and finds herself lobbying medical personnel and the school district for their assistance. She advocates for Gabe at every turn, even at the expense of alienating her husband, Philip, in the process. I really liked Tori's spunk and her ability to not let obstacles stand in her way. I particularly enjoyed the scene where she confronts her husband's co-worker, Delia, and lets her know in no uncertain terms that Philip is "off limits." I wanted to be part of the office's administrative assistant pool just so I could watch their encounter firsthand!
This is the first novel I've read dealing with the issues of adoption and autism, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is not preachy at all, yet weaves themes of God's love, provision, forgiveness and redemption throughout it in a way that has wide appeal for both the Christian and the non-Christian audience.
Please note: I received a free copy of Dancing From the Shadows in exchange for my honest review.
Dancing in the Shadows was of interest to me because I have a nephew whom is autistic, but also before deciding whether to teach nursery, preschool or special needs I read many books on teachers in special needs classes.
This story pulled me in right from the beginning and I felt as though I was part of the inner family circle, feeling right along with them, praying with and cheering Tori and Gabe on through the many challenges. How very important for us readers to realize just how hard it is for parents of special needs children to find services that meet their ever changing needs but more importantly for people willing to babysit to give parents time alone, together.
This is the first book I have read by D'Ann Renner but it will definitely not be the last!
If you are looking for a great read, with many twists and turns and action, and how God works through it all, then this is a definite must read for you.
I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
D'Ann Renner gives a glimpse into the life of special needs children and their families. You will cry and rejoice with every hurdle this family overcomes. The St Johns are a happily married couple living the life, they both have great high power careers and freedom to come and go as they please. They decide to adopt a child from a third world country Bulgaria. They are adamant they do not want a special needs child. They end up adopting two children, orphaned siblings. Lydia is high strung and Gabe is later diagnosed with Autism. The St Johns world is turned upside down. Tori is dedicated to finding a cure and help for Gabe. Running from one appointment to another, trying ever cure she hears about. Will Tori find a cure for Gabe? Philip her husband puts in many hours working overtime to climb the corporate latter to support them. Their marriage becomes tense as finances become tight and their lives become too busy. Philip is being enticed and perused by his provocative co-worker Delia whose main goal is to win his heart for herself. Will Philip give in to Delia's advances? Oh you will have to read the book to find out. I promise you will enjoy this great book. As the mother to a special needs child this book gave me hope and inspiration.
As one of my closest friends is the adoptive mother of a child diagnosed with Asberger syndrome, it was with great interest that I read the description for D'Ann Rennerâ€˜s novel Dancing from the Shadows. A successful businesswoman gives up her career to mother two adopted children from Bulgaria, one of whom is diagnosed after adoption with autism.
What I Liked
Ms. Renner's storyline pulled me in and kept me wanting to finish it even though at times it was exhausting reading. Living with a child anywhere on the autistic spectrum brings great challenges to the parents and caregivers, and I feel like she created and portrayed that life very well. I wanted to encourage the mother, spank the â€˜normal' daughter, and defend the family to those who failed to see their own lack of mercy (not that I am any better at times).
What I Didn't Like
The punctuation and formatting on this novel kept jarring me out of the story, not enough that I couldn't continue reading but enough to sometimes be annoying. The use of semicolons sometimes created fragments, and multiple times sentences were broken up with a â€˜hard break' into two lines. This seemed to happen far more frequently after the initial 135 pages.
The author also liked to break up conversations in a way that was awkward for me. For example, from page 170, a scene with, I believe, eight people:
Looking at her face, Tori imagined Maggie licking her chops.
"Tell us how concerned other parents are!"
Donna raised an eyebrow.
"I never mentioned other parents."
"Why, Maggie," Tori said. "Surely, as assistant pastor, you're not spreading rumors?"
This paragraph breakup of what people were doing and saying made it difficult at times to figure out who was saying what. I recognize this is probably more of a style preference, but three or four times I found myself going back several sentences to try to figure out who was speaking.
At one point, the author included email traffic between the mother and others. Sometimes the emails would start out "To:" and sometimes they would start out "From:". This was confusing and I wished Ms. Renner would have simply always done one or the other, or perhaps included both the sender and receiver in the emails to make it more clear.
I wondered why the author included one drug and one therapy that were fictional. With all the treatment options available, both through typical doctors and alternative therapies, I didn't understand why she went created these.
I will mention that I know from other reviews that some felt the author was preaching about various therapies, medications, etc., or perhaps crossing into a non-fiction book on what to do for your autistic child. While I can see where they are getting this, very little of it felt over the top. If I were completely ignorant of autism, I think I would appreciate the detail Ms. Renner includes. With my current knowledge, I didn't mind reading through it. While, I suppose, a bit here or there felt more informative than fictional entertainment, the sections of research and explanations did not bother me as a whole within the book.
Finally, I had some issues with the end of the story and would have preferred it ended about 50 pages sooner. Not only did it feel like the end was the forced on the characters by the author, it had other issues like a character speaking while on a respirator in the hospital.
The Bottom Line - 3 stars
Despite my seemingly short list of things I liked against the long list of things I didn't, overall it was a novel worth reading. Although grammar problems normally irritate me, the style and punctuation issues I mentioned are largely balanced out by the story and great characters.
If you want to know more about life with an autistic child, if you want to gain empathy for those who deal with this on a regular basis, or if you want encouragement from a mom in the trenches who battles the system, and sometimes her Heavenly Father, then you may want to check out this book.
DISCLOSURE: I received a printed copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated nor asked for a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
From the first page I was captured and pulled into a story that gave me a heart-rendering and intimate look inside life with a special needs child. To make it even more potent, D'Ann Renner shows life with an adopted special needs child. From laughter to tears and back again, this book is more than just a story...it's a look into true family love.